Posts Tagged Evanston proposes closing a fire station

Evanston Fire Department news (more)

Excerpts from the evanstonroundtable.com:

In his proposed 2019 City budget, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz would close Fire Station 4, 1817 Washington St. Not only is this station Evanston’s smallest station, it is the only one serving the southwest side of the city. Closing the station would entail laying off one firefighter/paramedic and re-assigning the other firefighters/paramedics to other stations.

He said in a press briefing on Oct. 4 he felt closing the station was justified because it is the smallest one and other fire stations could cover the calls and since there is no ambulance at that station, the overall impact of the service cuts would be less than if another station were closed.

The fire chief and the firefighters union, Local 742, apparently could not disagree more. Closing a fire station would increase response times, thereby increasing both the risk of injury and death to victims and firefighters and the likelihood of property damage.

Fire Chief Brian Scott said he holds the safety of the community as his highest priority and although he understands the need for a rigorous review of all city departments in a budgetary squeeze, he is opposed to cutting any safety services to Evanston residents.

Closing Station 4 would increase the response times not only to the homes and businesses in southwest Evanston by more than 50% but would also generally increase times to structures in other parts of the city, if a call came to a station where the units were deployed elsewhere.

There are five fire stations in Evanston’s eight square miles: two on Central Street, one on Emerson Street, one on Madison Street and one on Washington Street.  All five stations are equipped with an engine company; two also have truck companies, and two have ambulances. All units are equipped with advanced life-safety equipment and the firefighters are also trained paramedics.

As the busiest fire department on the North Shore, the Evanston handles more than 10,000 calls each year – about 45% of which are concurrent with other calls. Judging by the past few years, Chief Scott expects that number will increase by about 2% each year.

Effective Oct. 1, the Evanston Fire Department has a Class 1 rating from the Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO) for fire protection services. The ranking puts Evanston in the top 1% of the more than 47,000 fire departments across the nation ISO has evaluated.

Evanston’s mix of single-family homes, commercial structures and high-rises pose a mix of hazards, according to NFPA 1710 – low for single-family homes, medium for commercial structures and high for high-rises. The minimum daily staffing for low-hazard structures is 15, 28 for medium-hazards, and 43 for high-hazard.

The average response time for the Evanston Fire Department is three minutes, 15 seconds – 45 critical seconds below the four-minute response time of the NFPA 1710.

Response time is critical in both fire and life-safety emergencies. Many home and commercial furnishings are petro-chemically based, so they are more combustible and burn hotter than flammable materials in the past. At a certain point – generally in eight to 10 minutes – a fire will flashover. It is vital that firefighters apply water before flashover to save lives and minimize property damage.

Because all Evanston fire trucks are equipped with advanced life-safety equipment and cross-trained paramedics, the fact that there is no ambulance at Fire Station 4 does not necessarily mean that residents and businesses in the area are short-changed in medical emergencies. Dispatched to a 911 EMS call, firefighters can begin life-saving procedures while an ambulance is on its way. 

Although Southwest Evanston is near both the Chicago and Skokie borders, it is not reasonable to rely on firefighters in either of those communities to respond immediately to an emergency in Evanston. Fire companies in neighboring communities can help in a multi-alarm fire, but each department is responsible first to the residents of its own community.

Firefighters and the chief are holding firm against the closing of Fire Station 4. Many residents here are similarly opposed to closing the station and cutting services.

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Evanston Fire Department news (more)

Excerpts from the dailynorthwestern.com:

A $1.2 million cut to the Evanston Fire Department in the city’s proposed 2019 budget would mean eliminating nine positions and shutting down Station 4, which has led to pushback from current and former EFD personnel as well as city residents. The suggested reduction is the largest for any city department and follows a 2018 budget cut of $288,762 for EFD.

Station 4 — located at 1817 Washington St. — is in the 2nd Ward and services the southwest region of Evanston. The city manager said if city council approves the proposed budget in November, the building that houses Station 4 will be sold and nearby stations will take over for the area.

However, in an email to The Daily, Evanston Fire Local 742 union executive board members Ryan Roeder and Billy Lynch said recklessly closing Station 4 would compromise the safety that Evanston residents deserve by causing delays in service. They said the city’s five fire stations are strategically situated to respond to emergencies.

According to EFD’s 2017 Annual Report, the department responded to just over 10,000 emergency calls last year. Former EFD Chief Greg Klaiber wrote in an Oct. 7 Facebook post that 1,173 of those calls were located in the neighborhood serviced by Station 4, which is typically staffed by one captain, two firefighter/paramedics, and one fire engine.

Evanston and Northwestern are serviced by only two ambulances and seven firefighter/paramedic-staffed vehicles — five engines and two trucks. According to the proposed budget, after Station 4 is shut down, its fire engine will also be removed from service. According to Klaiber, engines located at Madison Street and Emerson Street would have to cover the area, resulting in increased response times.

Roeder and Lynch’s joint statement echoed Klaiber’s post, calling the proposed closure particularly concerning because of the already limited resources that EFD has. On top of that, they said the number of EMS calls has more than doubled in recent decades, though there has been no increase in the number of responding personnel. The proposed budget’s decrease of nine EFD positions — one layoff of an active firefighter/paramedic and the elimination of eight vacant spots — would only increase the strain,.

The city will hold a public hearing about the budget on Oct. 27, and each ward will be hosting informal budget review sessions through Oct. 24. Residents can also use the city website to comment on the proposal before the final vote in November.

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Evanston Fire Department news (more)

Excerpts from evanstonnow.com:

Former Evanston fire chief Greg Klaiber is sharply criticizing plans to close one of the city’s five fire stations as part of broader cuts to balance the city’s 2019 budget

In a message posted on his Facebook page, Klaiber says he can’t support elimination of nearly 10 percent of the city’s firefighter/paramedic positions.

Klaiber, who since his retirement from the city has worked as director of emergency management at Northwestern University, says that last year about 11 percent of the calls for service in the city came from within Station 4’s protection district.

Facebook post from Greg Klaiber about closing of Evanston fire station

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